It’s an Aladdin’s cave, Cyril Zangs’ cellar. Bottle cages are stacked high, plus what seems like oceans of A-frames, there for the twisting-and-tilting game known as riddling, to clear bottle-conditioned and bottle-fermented ciders and perries of their spent yeast.
Plus just enough room to sample a couple of Cyril’s bottles with him.
Smiling and crowned with a black flat cap, Cyril’s presence gives no indication of the late evening he’d had the night before. Busy times, visiting cider makers from afar…
Initially attracted to the wine world, Cyril favours the natural approach. He was among the first to manually disgorge and his uncompromising philosophy extends to the end of the process. ‘Why do they put sugar in?’ he asks. ‘I don’t want my stomach to be the barrel.’
Apples, however, are a passion. There are 70 different varieties in his orchards. From the well-knowns, like Douce Moën and Marie Ménard, through to lesser stars, like the aromatic Douce Normand and the late-harvesting, high-quality bittersweet Mettais. ‘I prefer the later apples,’ he says. ‘The fermentation is slower.’
This is the 2016 vintage of Cyril’s flagship brut cider. Yes, compared with 2015, it’s a youngster, but the complexity is already beguiling. Rich amber in colour, this is a glorious celebration of the bittersweet cider apple. Unquestionably dry, there’s incredible depth on the palate, including light caramel hints. There’s the same fuzzy peach skin you find in the 2015 but this time it’s enveloped by vivid fresh peach notes and warm apricot compote. The sparkle combines with dusky tannins to leave a long finish.
Definitely with a long life ahead, this will be fascinating to revisit.
CYRIL ZANGS BRUT CIDER: THE FACTS
Region: Calvados, Normandy
Fruit: A blend of 70 varieties, harvested by hand, October to mid-December
Life story: Apples stored by variety for upto six weeks to continue ripening;several rackings during six-month fermentation;unfiltered cider bottled with no sulphites, stored horizontally up to three months;moved to A-frame for riddling; topped up with the same cider
If you like this, also try: Cyril Zangs’ This Side® Up cider, Double Zero cider eau de vie and his range of apple vinegars
Experience: Available in over 10 countries as well as France, see website for distributor details; follow social media for details of events:
Journalist, editor and drinks judge, Susanna Forbes specialises in beer, cider, English wine and drinks tourism. She is the proud owner of an orchard in Herefordshire with husband James, where they have started their own cider business, Little Pomona. Susanna is regularly to be found on Twitter and Instagram.
For more information on food and drink in Normandy, visit the Normandy Tourism website.
Cover photo © E. Lorang | Text © Susanna Forbes / Quadrille